Almost everybody loves food - from the health-conscious kale enthusiast, to the chocoholic cocoa connoisseur…
So why do we waste so much of it!?
Every year around 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted.
This shocking fact is even more scandalous when you spare a moment to ponder on the poverty in parts of the world.
Sometimes a lot closer to home than you may realise.
So what’s the issue?
Food waste presents massive issues, not just environmentally but also economically and ethically.
So let’s start with the environmental implications… when we pick up a packet of potatoes or a bunch of bananas from the supermarket, we don’t often truly appreciate the groundwork that has gone into growing and transporting our food.
The journey that's just bananas!
So the banana for example, it doesn’t just appear on the shelf of your local supermarket or farmer's market. Let's go right back to the start….
The banana is only harvested after it has been growing for 10-20 months.
They are then packaged, labelled and put onto huge cargo ships (if they have grown perfectly and are the desired shape and colour!)
This part of the process, considering shipping and refrigeration, contributes over 60% to the carbon footprint of the banana.
Even once the banana has arrived in the country where it is to be sold, they enter “forced ripening” centres in which they must be kept between 13-18 degrees to keep them at their aesthetic best.
The final leg of their journey will be from distributors and onto supermarket shelves and then eventually (if sold) home to the end consumers fridge.
So when you think of throwing away a banana because it’s developed a few brown spots and “it’s only 20p” why not find another use for it? You could use it in a smoothie? Make banana bread? That fruit has made an awfully long journey, just to be thrown away.
If food waste were a country
If food waste were a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter (after the US and China) ! Consider the land, water, energy and resources that go into growing and transporting our food – just for 10 million tonnes of it to end up rotting in landfill releasing Greenhouse Gases and polluting the soil and water. Not to even mention the unnecessary packaging waste!
In pounds shilling and pence, the production and transportation of food is expensive…and here in the UK we (literally) throw away £13 BILLION worth of food each year.
Ethically, as a nation 10 million tonnes are thrown away while some people don’t even have enough to eat - 4.6 million people in the UK suffer persistent poverty and the number of people using food banks in the UK has risen from 41,000 in 2010 to 1.2 million in 2017.
What is being done?
Exposed on Hugh's War on Waste for the outrageous amount of vegetables being wasted at farm level due to the unnecessarily high cosmetic standards set by supermarkets, several big players have introduced 'Wonky Veg' lines - including Asda, Morrisons and Tesco
There are also a lot of great companies doing wonderful things:
Charities such as Fareshare that redistribute food to those in need;
Apps such as OLIO which connect users with neighbours and businesses that have surplus food;
Environmental organisations including Feedback that help save food directly from farms that would have otherwise gone to waste...
...and amazing companies which utilise rescued food and turn it into something completely new - which is massively important when you consider that bread (30%) and fruits and vegetables (45%) are amongst the world’s most wasted foods:
- Toast Ale - beer made from surplus bread (highlighted below)
- Get Wonky - juices made from surplus fruits and veggies (highlighted below)
- Rubies in the Rubble - relishes and jams created using surplus food
- Snact - handmade snacks to help tackle food waste
- ChicP – hummus from surplus fruits and vegetables
- Dash Water - sparkling water infused with wonky fruit and veg
- Spare Fruit - fruit crisps made from rescued apples and pears
What can you do?
There are a number of ways that we can all help cut down on food waste.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation have compiled a list of things that you can do to prevent food waste including:
You can also freeze your food before its too late; be mindful of the difference between 'best before' and 'use by'; get involved with your local redistribution or gleaning organisation; pick up the wonky fruit and veg; and if you're in a supermarket try shopping in the reduced section for some savvy bargains on food about to be thrown away.